I had an experience recently that made me really glad of the work I have done to learn about personal boundaries and how to enforce them. Someone I encounter in my daily life decided that I needed to be fixed and that s/he would be the one responsible for making it happen. What ensued was a theater of intrusiveness, evangelical pushiness, and creepy faux-intimacy that would rival the techniques of the most experienced cult leader.
The experience reminded me that that manipulation has a close cousin: intrusiveness. People are intrusive when they don’t recognize the boundaries between them and other people. Often manipulation and intrusiveness go hand-in-hand because people who want to infringe on your boundaries will use manipulation to get under your skin and then try to convince you to let them get away with it.
So, based on my recent horrible experience, here are my top 5 ways you know someone is violating your boundaries:
- You’re not sitting by the side of the road with a flat tire, crying into your beer, or filing for bankruptcy, and yet they insist that you’re troubled and they are there to help you.
- If you rebuff their help they invoke and twist a previous conversation to try to prove that in fact you do need their help and advice. By contrast a person with appropriate boundaries whose advice or help was unwanted would simply say “oh, OK, well, let me know if you need anything,” and let it drop.
- They seem waaaay too invested in aspects of others’ lives that don’t directly affect them. Examples include: policing what other people eat; obsessing over how someone else is “doing it wrong,” being concerned with the gender of someone’s romantic partner. Mind your own business is something that these people have never heard of.
- They think that if they don’t like how someone behaves that they are entitled to try to fix them and that they’re obligated to accept the efforts. In my situation, after I got fed up and asked the person what, exactly, the goal was of their very inappropriate and infuriating behavior, I was told that the person was annoyed by me and was trying to help me change the annoying (to them) behavior. I can’t tell you how happy I was that my instant, natural response to this was to tell the person they could suck it. Sadly there was a time when I would have worried about being annoying and tried to “fix” it.
- The person isn’t a mental health professional but insists that they know you better than you know yourself and that they can see that you have issues that you’re not brave enough to admit you have. Ugh, fist of rage over that one.